Knowledge of and attitudes toward organ donation: a survey of medical students in Puerto Rico

Juan M Marqués-Lespier, Nicole M Ortiz-Vega, María C Sánchez, María C Sánchez, Omar E Soto-Avilés, Esther A Torres
Puerto Rico Health Sciences Journal 2013, 32 (4): 187-93

OBJECTIVE: The increasing demand for organ transplants exceeds the organ donation rate. Addressing this discrepancy is challenging for organ procurement agencies and health professionals involved in the care of patients in dire need of organs. Research suggests that health-care professionals' knowledge of, attitudes toward, and behavior in terms of organ donation and transplantation are deciding variables in promoting organ donation. In Puerto Rico, there is a lack of information regarding medical student's knowledge of and/or attitudes toward organ donation, a lack that our study was designed to address.

METHODS: Two hundred thirty participants (98 first-year, 45 second-year, and 87 third-year medical students) completed a questionnaire consisting of 55 questions; 10 questions assessed knowledge and 20, attitudes about organ and tissue donation. The remaining questions inquired after demographic information, history of blood donation, and educational experience.

RESULTS: In terms of their knowledge about organ donation, the participating students had a mean score of 6.29 on a 10-point scale-with 10 being the highest possible knowledge score-and 45.7% of them scored 7 or more. These data also showed that participants had a positive attitude toward organ donation (44.9; range 14 to 56), with approximately 72% having a favorable view. However, while 40% of the participating students stated their intentions to donate their organs, only 23% of them had donor cards.

CONCLUSION: We determined that medical students have a positive attitude towards organ donation. However, a substantial lack of knowledge of organ donation among our subjects is a barrier to their taking the necessary measures to become active donors. Our data highlight the need to incorporate educational programs to increase knowledge and awareness regarding organ donation and the transplantation process.

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